Diminishing Returns To Education

Submitted by Looking Glass

UWI,Cave Hill

Theoretically economic laws tell us that if we connect all the world knowledge pools and promote greater trade and integration the global pie will become larger and more complex. Implicit is the trickle down effect which will increase the living standards of the masses. Also implicit is the greater and more specialize the knowledge the greater will be the amount and value of jobs coming on stream. Hence the nation able to significantly increase it s knowledge force will enjoy a larger share of the pie. Among other things the theory assumes rationality of behaviour which is simply not the case. The global playing field may be flat but certainly not level. Countries differ in terms of the amount of land space, natural resources, people, markets and power. For this reason especially post secondary education should be structured to facilitate strategic development as is the case in China and other countries.

Not long ago the goal, an extension of no child left behind and unique only to Barbados was said to be a university graduate in every household by 2020.

The Pro Vice Chancellor told the Cabinet he envisioned 12000 students in the next 4 years of which 20% will be masters and doctoral grads (Advocate 2/22/2011). Now Tertiary education is said to be “critical to the strategic development of the country.” The Cave Hill Campus and the expansion should be seen as a growth area. Having a township to accommodate 15,000 will make a “profound contribution to the country’s development” (Advocate 05/07/2012).

It is unwise to copy the development plans of others. Trinidad and Jamaica like Guyana have land, resources to develop and a bundle of people. Guyana is now into oil and gold production and Jamaica into large scale agriculture. It is understandable that they seek to expand the university as part of their “strategic development.” We have only a few square miles of land, no natural resources and about 310,000 people. The economy apart from tourism, over which we cannot control, is basically a ‘service’ economy. Right now we are producing lawyers, social scientists and little else. There is no way our economy as constituted can absorb our graduates. In resource rich USA kids are leaving university with an average $40,000 in debt and no jobs. Much the same thing in Canada.

Our economy as constituted cannot reward the increasing black mass. Education as currently structured cannot improve black socio-economic mobility in an economy ill-equipped to service the population. Migration doors, a saviour in the past are more or less closed. Chances that poor kids will be able to climb the income ladder will be greatly reduced, returns to education will continue to diminish as the gap between black and white widens. The socio-psychological implications for the Black Class System and the population is another matter. Imitating the “strategic development” of others is ultimately destructive. Among other things it will increase the ongoing diminishing returns to education.

Right now we have 870 students more than 50% under 24 years of age (Advocate 7/11/2012). I believe less than 100 of them are foreign. It is cheaper to send kids in the region to Trinidad, Jamaica or Guyana. Some people chose to send their kids abroad. More than 80% of the 1297 students in 2011 graduated with honours; 367 with post graduate degrees (Advocate July, 14, 2012). How many are or will be employed? Expanding Cave Hill into a township to accommodate 12000 students by 2020 and producing a product for which there is no demand is a bad joke. That turning it into a township primarily for Bajan students will make a profound financial impact in terms of foreign exchange is simply ridiculous. Codrington College as a graduate division of a top UK university may require a township, but it has nothing to do with you

Not all “standard” education is strategic to our development. Many of the world’s leading businesses were started by souls with less than a secondary education. Four white “Indentures” built and developed Bridgetown. Pine Hill products apart few of the products we make are available in the islands and Falernum is virtually unknown outside Barbados. For Cave Hill to support positive economic development we need to restructure post primary education to take advantage of what we have: to the ‘potentially productive sectors’ and courses related to manufacturing, small business, agriculture, technology, research and our history. Right now Research like Marketing and Case Studies is a bad word.

Positive activism requires a constant supply of ideas and innovation. Cave Hill and the public libraries are terribly short on books, journals, business and other socio-economic publications. It says a lot when persons are citing Wikipedia. Two blogs on post primary education written last year addressed the problem and offered suggestions. To learn more read A Look At Cave Hill, and A Look At Secondary Level Education.

0 thoughts on “Diminishing Returns To Education

  1. We have discussed this topic every way but up all before haven’t we? We educate our people to boast that we are educated or should that be accredited?

    Where is the national strategy to create the model, Growth in allocation to Education equates to GDP Growth?

  2. @ LG
    Education is about preparation for meeting the challenges of life.

    There is a big difference between preparation for life’s challenges and what happens in Barbados….especially up the hill.
    There can be no sound argument for “education” in countries with lots of land space as against countries like ours without such natural resources. In fact education is even more important with such limitations…

    The REAL problem related to relevance.

    If our “education system” could be orientated to become RELEVANT to the actual developmental needs of Bajans then we could even spend more money in that area and be cost effective.

    The problem is not education per se, it is the lack of vision of the leadership and the consequent lack of relevancy of the results.

    …what can you expect if you put a historian in charge? ….he will keep on focusing on righting old wrongs and trying to revive cricket. We need someone who can visualize, conceptualize and realize the future through our education system – to lead the damn thing… We need a MME

  3. What’s amazing is that with curriculum reform, a 20 year strategic plan, a medium term development strategy, a human resource development strategy and God knows how many budgetary statements and labour market surveys, that we still find ourselves in this position of questioning the returns on this investment.

    It’s going to pretty much remain the same until someone decides to think “outside the box” and use education to create rather than just educate, so that we can finally have a bigger more productive box.

    Just observing

    • @Observing 7 Bush Tea

      We have to get serious. It appears the tail is wagging the dog. Sir Hillary has his vision and to hell with the stakeholders; we have to go in this direction. We all know education is one of the sacred cows along with health. None of the vote catching politicians have what it takes to lead the reform necessary. A consequence therefore is that it has to collapse and be rebuilt.

  4. David
    It is a bit more complicated than it first seems. Even LG in his critique has exposed his lack of full understanding of the extent of the challenge.
    The fact of the matter is that “education” has been a failure at a global level. Bushie likes to pick on Sir Hillary, but the truth is that very few in Barbados comes close to him in terms of that ability to visualize and then to actualize. (check and see if he is not of Jeff B’s mold…)

    By world standards Barbados has not done badly…. In fact, we’re it not for the error of coeducation, Bushie is convinced that we would have a system in the top 5% worldwide.

    That being said, the REAL (global) problem is that we have been unable to conceptualize a RELEVANT education system simply because we DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE REAL PURPOSE OF LIFE IS.

    So how the hell can we design a system to “prepare students to successfully meet the challenges of life” when none of the designers know what the PURPOSE of life is…..?

    Do you think that you could design an effective ladder if you were not aware of how it was intended to be used…?

    So when LG makes reference to the inability of the local “education system” to produce citizens who are economically well off, he is presupposing (just like Sir H) that this is what represents success.
    …..so the purpose of life is to be wealthy? …and education is designed to prepare us to all die rich….?

    LOL …. This whole thing has started out wrong and it can only end one way….

    Step 1 is to establish the NATIONAL PURPOSE, and the definition of success.
    Step 2 is to identify the requirements for success in the identified purpose.
    Step 3 is to design a system to instill the required knowledge, values, character and other attributes needed into students.
    Step 4 is to constantly check to ensure that the system is working efficiently

    Get step 1 wrong, and the dog dead…..
    We got step 1 wrong…

  5. @ David | July 30, 2012 at 7:06 AM |
    “A consequence therefore is that it has to collapse and be rebuilt.”

    You bet, David! That is the only way out. An implosion caused by a lack of finance (the life blood of beast) will do the trick. By end of 2013 we would be on the road of having a revamped tertiary education structure.

  6. A graduate in every home is not an educational strategy, nor indeed a policy. A graduate in what?
    A graduate in every home is empire building. I would like to see the figures for the number of students at UWI Cave Hill over the last ten years, and this number broken down in to subjects.
    How many of the undergraduates enter on so-called foundation courses, which rightly is the remit of the Community College?
    What are the basic entry qualifications for each course and how many of the new entrants meet those basic qualifications?
    In any case, as I have said here before, I am in favour of a gradual increase in the spend on education, from about eight per cent to an eventual 12 per cent, but each cent must be made to work.
    Instead of spending increasing amounts on the UWI, or the waste of money on a so-called University College, the bulk of that money should be spent on early stage education, from pre-school to the end of statutory education, with a solid remit that at the age of 16 our children must reach international standards as measured by PISA. We also need to reform our curriculum, putting STEM at the core.
    Recognising also that all students are not academic, we need a network of technology, arts/music/and sport and business colleges of further education – all coming under the umbrella of the Community College – providing a full-time education to the age of 18.
    UWI should also be given five years in which to come up with a self-financing, totally independent of the taxpayer.
    I suggest the best university funding system is the Yale Endowment strategy, which must be independent of the government and of the university authorities, and managed by professional fund managers.
    We need to have a national debate on the bogus idea of a graduate in every home.
    In the meantime, the crisis in Barbadian education is being played out every day in the chaos at Alexandra.

  7. @ Austin
    I suggest the best university funding system is the Yale Endowment strategy, which must be independent of the government and of the university authorities, and managed by professional fund managers.
    Boss if we can’t even get the few business men wid lil more green that average to buy shares in BNB ,….you honestly believe our UWI will be able to solicit such men’s help? Man if we were to take your turn..in less than 5 yrs the institution will have to closed down.Some things are real easy to put forward but also like granite to implement.

  8. As always I have to agree with bush tea, but I want to add my lil piece. We need to look at the education system as a whole and see if it if worth keeping, I doubt. Has anyone, place, town country. Tried a different system?

    This post slavery education/ post industrial system help we get nuff people to read, 99 percent wow, big deal. Well Blackberries teach the ones the educational system could not teach ones deemed too hard ears. And even teach some of the top students of English how to write as bad as the dunce ones lmao, but WTF. If Barbados wants something to boast about put up a satellite not brag because we could teach people to read.

    Bout hay common sense ent common at all, but we all know what class we belong to from early when the fella down the road hit reception 2 he already know he ent as good as the other fella from reception 1, don’t talk about when the young lady pass for Harrison, that mean that she better than every one that ent make it there. The class thing got to go. But then wanna gin go to let go of wanna masters and thing too……. fat chance, so I have to agree with David as well. it have to collapse and be rebuilt. Or is it mash up and buy back.

  9. Just sharing a favourite education video with fellow bloggers. It’s a little “dated” but the substance remains. Much more where this came from if the powers that be would open their minds for a little bit.

    Just Observing

  10. We’ve been hearing talk bout making persons pay at Uwee. Why not reduce some of the numbers if we have bitten more than we can chew.

    Uwee seems to have been exponentially growing, maybe it is time to reduce the numbers so poor bright folk could stand a chance without having to proof how poor they are in order to receive a “free” education.

    • The growth of the intake of students by UWee is an issue which is not discussed and when is is too much politics come into play. It seems Sir Hillary can grow the numbers and the Barbados government is duty bound to pay per head.

  11. @ David | July 30, 2012 at 6:55 PM |

    To copy a piece of Freundel’s Freudian language: This constant nursing at the taxpayers nipples has made them sore and emaciated the cow which is now on her last legs and about to kick over the milk bucket; thus giving a new twist to the saying ‘you never miss the water until the well runs dry to be “you never miss the milk until the cow dies”.

    Sir Hillary’s view of why buy a cow when he can get milk free must now be changed to: “Wha’ in baboon book ent in schoolmaster book”. He, Hillary, must come to the realization that his empire is about crumble big time. Take his pension and go. His model of tertiary education is irrelevant for a future Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean just like the old Mutual Insurance model had long passed its “sell-by-date” when the principal was a radical revolutionary. “When li’l man put on big man pants, ‘e must tek wha’ he get”.

  12. Funny thing a blog like(about something important) is gonna reach 20 comments and die but one about politics will reach 100 easy

    • @ready done

      It is endemic to what the problem is in the first place. As a people we have lost our way. We don’t know who we are or what we want. We live in a time where the salacious and the superficial represent low hanging debate. There is a lack of leadership to lead the sheeple. Plus politicians like it so!

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